Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Thoughts: MAL Manga Challenge

MAL Manga  Challenge Round One:
So, on the message boards of MyAnimeList is having a manga reading challenge.  Here are all the titles I read and some quick thoughts on them.  I enjoyed this so much I am doing a second round.

Read a one-shot: Metropolis (KURODA Iou)
A re-imagining of Tezuka’s Metropolis. Honestly, I can’t remember this one well, so I’d say you can give it a pass.


Read a manga published before the 90s: Yume no Tsuzuki
A sci-fi story that is heavily dated by technology and fashion.  It was alright.  I can’t tell if the short length helps or hurts this one.


Read a manga published after the 90s Omoide Emanon
This one was really good.  Nice art and interesting story.  About a woman who has generational memory of the earth’s history.


Read an award-winning work: A Cruel God Reigns
A 17 volume series from Moto Hagio?  Yes, please.  But this one can be really emotionally draining so be prepared for that.  Here is a write up I did for the Hidden Gems of Manga club:
Ever wanted to read something emotionally challenging? Then Zankoku na Kami ga Shihai suru (A Cruel God Reigns) is most certainly it.  A seventeen volume series from manga great Moto Hagio this is the story of two teens Jeremy and Ian deal with abuse and dark secrets.
The story starts with Jeremey living with his single Mother in Boston.  They happen to meet Greg Roland.  A good looking, single, wealthy man from England.  Jeremy’s Mother is smitten with him right away and Greg pushes for a fast marriage.  But this is only the start of a chain of moves that Greg has to entrap Jeremey has he soon starts to sexually abuse him.

Soon, they go to England and here Jeremey is trapped.  It is apparent something is wrong with Jeremy but he won’t say anything because he wants his Mother to be happy. Things start to unravel when Jeremy tinkers with his Stepfather's car.  His Step-Father and Mother died in a car accident soon after. But was it Jeremy’s tinkering or was the car defective from the start?

After his Father’s death Jeremy’s new older step-brother Ian learns about all the abuse his Father has done.  Ian can’t believe it, and it forces him to deal with thoughts and feelings he has to never had to deal with before.


Can Jeremy and Ian keep it together and move on?


Read a manga by your favorite author/artist: Hohoemi No Nichijou
Bohra Naono is my all time favorite BL/Yaoi creator.  I love her art. Her stories are cute, feature older men, and the supernatural quite often.  Really, right up my alley.  This was a volume of cute one-shots.


Re-read a manga: Tokyo Akazukin
I was pretty obsessed with Benkyo Tamaoki art at one point and had read this years ago.  I was wondering if it would still hold up.  Not so much.  I would say it is best explained as supernatural exploitation.  I would say if you are not already super familiar with anime and manga this is just a huge no.  Even, if you are familiar with anime and manga stay away unless you like guro and lolis (and not just lolis being cute but uhhh you know…).


Read a manga by Osamu Tezuka: The Twin Knights
Well, this got me to finish up Princess Knight since this is the sequel to it.  I liked this one a bit more than Princess Knight since it comes off way less sexist.  Princess Knight had a whole thing with boy hearts and girl hearts.  And without her boy heart Princess Knight would lose all her strength and such.  None of that here, just girls getting to be badass.


Read a manga that is tagged with a genre you dislike: Pato-ko Ikkimasu! (Car)
I was looking for anything short and fully translated about cars.  This was pretty unremarkable


Read a debut manga: Puzzle+
Supernatural mystery seems right up my alley but this title was a bit wonky.  It wasn’t bad but I do feel the shortness of this one kind of kills it.  Sometimes, it was hard to tell what was going on.


Read a manga that became a prototype for a longer running series: NOiSE
I’ve tried to get into Tsutomu Nihei’s (Blame) works but I never seem to be able to.  This wasn’t bad, in fact I think I liked it a lot more than his other works but the story is still kind of muddied in it.


Read a manga with a target demographic that does not apply to you: Burning Hell
A manga about terrible people being terrible.  Another title that feels like an exploitation piece.  Does have really nice art though.


Read a manga with a target demographic that can apply to you (i.e. josei if you're a female in her 20s, etc): Insufficient Direction
Written by the manga creator who is married to famed anime director Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion).  This is as slice-of-life as you can get.  It is cute but doesn’t really add a whole lot of insight to Anno (other than he is a huge dork but I didn’t need to read this to know that).


Read a manga that has a main character of gender opposite to the demographic (i.e. female lead in a male demographic): :REverSAL
This was a cool sci-fi manga about being trapped in a game (yeah I know too many).  I enjoyed this but it suffers from being too short and doesn’t allow for tension to build up.


Read a manga with a score of or below 7 in MyAnimeList: Cyclic the Love
This is a one-shot that I didn’t remember anything about until I looked it up again.  So, I can say pass this one up.


Read a manga that starts with the same first letter as your username: Blue Heaven
This is good if you are looking for some fast paced action but the plot kind of gets muddled.  Art was nice.


Read a manga that someone on your friends' list rated a 10: Lunar: Vheen Hikuusen Monogatari
Three short stories about the Lunar universe.  Surprisingly good.  The art is very, very nice.  And the none of the characters seem to be characterized correctly.


Read a manga that has a main character that is a professional in his field (doctor, detective, embalmer, etc): Uchi no Tantei Shirimasen ka?
This was a cute yaoi title about two detectives.  It isn’t going to set the world on fire but it was enjoyable.


Read a manga that has a one word title: Zansho
A volume of one-shots.  Some were pretty good.


Read a manga with children in it: Hana Meguri Goyou!
This manga is really a mess.  The story is kind of all over the place.  And while the art isn’t bad the paneling is just awful and is hard to tell what is going on a lot of the time.


Read a manga about food: Bambino!
I think this is the real winner of all the titles I read.  It was really enjoyable and I powered through 15 volumes in one night.  Here is the write up I did for Hidden Gems of Manga:
This time we dive into the world of being a professional chef.  Shogo Ban has never wanted to do anything else with this life this be a professional Italian chef.  But he has only worked in small restaurant in a small town as help.  Can he make it in on the most popular (and busy) places in Tokyo?


He gets there and promptly nicknamed Bambino (baby) by the other chefs.  Watch as he has to work 12 hour days; deal with abusive co-workers; give up on some relationships in his life; and travel to America. Learn a bunch of Italian phrases related to food!


If you like cook shows or contests like Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen this is a must read.


Read a manga about war: Joan
This is a manga about a woman who is kind of obsessed with Joan of arc and wants to follow her path.  It’s a weird manga.  It isn’t bad but a manga about Joan of arc  herself would have been more interesting.  It’s by the guy who did the character designs for the original Gundam.  So, it is pretty nice looking.  It is also in full color which is pretty cool.


Read a manhua: Chicken Cutlet Princess
Manhua is the Chinese counterpart to manga and comics.  This was a cute and stilly romance story about a girl who really likes chicken cutlets and the boy who thinks she is a complete weirdo.  Cute fun fluff.


Manhwa are Korean comics. Another one-shot that left almost no impression.  At least it wasn’t long?


Read a horror, sci-fi OR fantasy manga: Madness
This is a fantasy yaoi title (which I wish there was more of).  It was pretty decent and had actual plot and even (gasp!) female characters.  Story is a bit muddled but overall not bad for what it is.


Read a webmanga: Noblesse
So, I wanted to read one of those webtoons that everyone is talking about.  A webtoon is pretty much the Korean equivalent of a webcomic.  Noblesse is one of the big ones everyone talks about, and is about vampires, so that was the one I choose.  It wasn’t bad and I enjoyed it a lot but it has some serious issues with power creep and a sort of rinse and repeat plot.  But it does have a good sense of humor done right to break up the tension in the story, it never feels out of place (which I find pretty impressive).  It also has a number of great character moments, which help elevate the series a lot.  The art is also full color and very pretty to look at.  


You can check a lot of these webtoons @ http://www.webtoons.com/en/

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Thoughts - Sailor Moon Crystal

Okay, I am cheating a bit with anime, but I wrote down these thoughts and I thought I would share them. I finished Sailor Moon Crystal. And it was ehhhhhh. I didn't dislike it as much as others on the internet seem to. I think it does end up showing what were the strong points of the original series though.

The art/animation is seriously lacking. I do think I'm a bit more indifferent than most of the fandom was about this. But as I've been watching a ton of anime lately, I can say it doesn't stand up to today's standards. And I think as a big anniversary event, everyone thought they would try and make it look awesome and it looks kind of blah. The old show may not be up to today's standards either but you can see they put a lot of effort into it for its time and what it was.

Characters is where I think Crystal really shows what the strong point in the original series was. Because in Crystal no one but Sailor Moon, Chibi-Usa, and maybe Mamoru get any real character development. The other girls get personalities but almost no screen time to show those personalities off. The original might have a lot of filler but it was used well to expand the characters and make you care about them. (I feel like even the live action Sailor Moon did a much better job with the other characters).

Story is hard for me to judge. I did start re-watching the original a while back but didn't get that far. So, I can't tell if the case is I've gotten older so the story just doesn't hold up as well for me or if Crystal was just that lacking. I do think it is a show that if it had a stronger team working on it, there could have been a much stronger final product.

I will say the one big improvement with this show is Chibi-Usa is actually tolerable and actually pretty likeable by the end. They manage to really tell her story in a way that better explains her back story. Which explains a lot of her behavior. Also in this case, less episodes mean less screen time for her to be obnoxious.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Scanlation Get: Devilman vs Getter Robo

Devilman vs Getter Robo is mostly a generic team up title.  This is a pretty recent title as it was done in 2010, but uses the classic Getter Robo backgroud story of an evil Dinosaur Empire as the villains. For reason never explained Akira and Miki from Devilman show up at the Getter Robo base for an overnight stay. Silene has her own planes, she joins up with the Dinosaur Empire to try and take out both Devilman and Getter Robo.

The most interesting part of this manga is the final battle which include Miki and Michiru getting their own Getter to pilot.  Though in the end it doesn't do much, but at least the gave the ladies something to do, other than being damsels in distress. The best part is when the demons merge with the mechasaurus, which leads to some really cool looking designs.

Also, while in the information I could find for this lists Go Nagai as the author and mentions Dynamic Pro (Nagai's studio) as the artist. I find it odd that Ken Ishikawa isn't mentioned at all since Getter Robo was really his baby. The art is Nagai style but looks to be that yes it was probably done by someone other then him.  The faces and a few other things are just kind of off.

I can't say to much about this title.  It was short, only one volume. But it was a fun quick read, though pretty insubstantial. It pretty much is a by the books team up title, checking off all the tropes as it goes along.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Scanlation Get: Guerrilla High/Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko

At one point in time there was basically almost no Go Nagai manga in English.  Through the hard work of a lot of scanlators it seems like a mountain of his work is now available. Considering that the likelihood of his work actually getting published in U.S. is low, I really appreciate their efforts.  At first it was jut the big stuff but now we are seeing more and more of his lesser known works like today's title Guerrilla High.

In the late 1960s there was a rise of violent student movements in Universities.  This trickled down even to the lowest kindergarten class.  To a point where no teacher was safe. It was then decided teachers could carry weapons and even have a license to kill.  The students more oppressed then ever start guerrilla movements to bring down this tyranny. Only it seems the guerrilla's themselves are vicious maniacs.

Are heroes (anti-heroes?!) are Saotome Mondo and Midou Tatsuma.  At first it seems they really want to help the students but in truth Mondo just wants to incite violence and murder.  He ends up indirectly killing many of the students on his rampage through the school.  Midou seems like the reasonable one but when it comes down to it Midou can go off the edge just as bad.

The first volume ends with Midou just disappearing. The second volume introduces us to a new character Nishikiori Tsubasa.  The leader of an all female guerrilla group that goes around in bikinis and go go boots.  She is super strong and not afraid to fight sadly even though she seems like a pretty cool female character she ends up just being most a plot device (also she spends much of the second and third volumes with no pants or underwear on).  As she gets kidnapped and captured by our new villain Midoro Toranosuke, bandaged man, and Principal of an elite school.

At this point I guess his evil plan is to have Mondo rescue her?!  I'm not sure Mondo has no connection to her at this point and going goes to rescue her because she is hot and has nice boobs.  Truly, we stand at the peak of truly great motivation in stories.

After this point I don't want to say to much about the plot. The second half is full of strange twists and I wouldn't want to ruin them.  Though I will have to say this story just kind of ends on a "eh, what?" note.  A bunch of stuff happen and then then go for what seems to be the final fight. Only it's "The End" and not an actual final fight.

Other then the ending kind of leaving a bad taste in my mouth I enjoy this manga lot.  It runs at breakneck speed.  Something is always happening and there are tons of great fight scenes.  This is one of Go Nagai's hyper violent titles.  Whole mobs of people die in this.  While Nishikiori runs around with out much on there isn't nearly as much on the sex side.  It is certainly far more subdued then Cutey Honey in that aspect.

I want to say the plot is a mess (which it kind of it) but to me the big problem was Saotome Mondo's character.  Was he supposed to be a guerrilla for the people, a redemptionless murderer, someone who at least cares about his friends, or someone who cares about no one?  The character was kind of all over the place. Though, even with those problems it was still a really fun read.

The art in this is actually very nice.  I mean if you already don't like Go Nagai art, this isn't going to change your mind.  But this is some of the best I've seen from him.  Nothing to wacky or wonky looking.  Strong lines, some really great one page spreads, in that really scribblely style he does.  Also of note, huge chunks of this manga are in color.  Not just a page here or there but like 20 pages at a time or more.  For a color comic from the 1970s it is really nice color.  Much better then most American comics comparable in age.  It really makes me wish the whole manga was in color.

If you are looking for something over the top and don't want to think to hard, this is certainly a great red.  Guerrilla High even though it has problems was still a very fun read worth checking out.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thoughts: Collecting Tips - Buying Used 2

Okay we have covered how to get used manga in real life but what about online?

The Internets

Don't want to be bothered going out to all these places?  Then online is the place to go.  The two retailers I'd suggested are Amazon Marketplace and Half.com. Often titles will be very cheap on both sites, but key is to remember shipping.  On Amazon used books can start at a penny and on Half.com books can start at seventy five cents.  Amazon Marketplace is different then normal Amazon and you will have to pay shipping, at least $3.99 per book. Half.com's shipping starts at $3.49, the real difference comes in when you buy multiple books from the same seller.  Half.com will reduce the shipping in about half for each subsequent book from the same seller.  Amazon Marketplace even if you order all your books from the same seller, each will have the same cost of shipping as the first book.  If you are looking to order more then one book at a time I highly recommend pricing it out on both sites.  A lot of the time even if the book costs more on Half.com the total cost will be lower due to shipping.  Also always try and get as many book as possible from the same seller for that reduced shipping cost.

Also, with these sites watch out for over inflated prices.  Sometimes a volume or a whole series is legitimately expensive because it went out of print and had a low print run.  Sometimes though sellers use bot programs to control the pricing, like being the cheapest for sale but only by a penny. Sometimes books will become super inflated, in the case the best solution is to wait for the seller to realize what has happen and hope they lower the price.

Another place to try is eBay. If you are just shopping around for some manga to buy eBay can be great. A lot of the time whole series show up in lots to buy. Just make sure you check around on other sites to see if you are getting a good deal. Now, if you are looking to fill out certain titles it can be a bit of mixed bag.

What if you just want one volume of a series from the middle of it? Or the title you are looking for is a bit more unusual? Then you can try eBay's saved searched.  You just put in a search you want and every time something new comes up under that search eBay sends you an email.

Another online outlet for buying used manga is Live Journal selling communities like Garage Sale Japan, Anime4Sale and Anime Shopping. Again this is a shot in the dark but is great place to find whole series and random volumes for great prices.  It's always a great way to unload your own stuff.  All you need to do is sign up for a Live Journal account.

Next time I'll talk about trading for want you want!

Thoughts: Collecting Tips - Buying Used 1

Okay we got buying new manga down but what if want to buy used, here are some tips for that. First why even buy used? If there is an old series that now seems interesting used maybe the only way to get it.  Also used is a great way to pick up stuff for cheap.

Brick & Mortar

One place to try is your local used book store.   Much like going to conventions to buy this can be a huge crap shoot.  Some used book stores have a great section of graphic novels with manga for good prices, others well not so much.  The nice thing about the used book store is you can take books you have laying around in for credit to use on picking up stuff you want.  Used books stores sometimes end up in weird places so it might be worth Googling it to see if any are in your area.

Then we go back to the local comic book store.  If you are familiar with your local shop then you will know if they carry used books or not.  While back issues of single comics are common, used volumes of graphic novels and manga not so much.  It can't hurt to ask though.

Another shot in the dark is a book sale.  These are local events held by generally by libraries (but other places also) selling off a huge mass of used books for super cheap.  I've found some very interesting books at sales like this but the manga kind be kind of iffy.  A lot of the time the people running the book sale don't know where to put manga so you may have to look in children's and sci-fi sections.

Another brick and mortar store I would highly recommend is Book Off.  Book Off is a Japanese chain of used book/video game/DVD etc. stores.  Currently there is one store in New York City, five out in California, and two in Hawaii. They will often have a good selection of manga in English, anime DVDs, and art books.  Most of the manga here runs about $5 dollars or less.  When I was visiting friends out in LA I think we visited almost all of the stores in the area.  I brought back more stuff from Book Off then I did from Anime Expo that year.  I also make sure to stop in the New York store every time I'm in the city.  Now, what if you don't live close to one?  Well you get someone else to look for you, which I'll get to more in a another post.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thoughts: Collecting Tips - Buying New

So you want to start collecting manga or you are collecting manga but looking for a bit more help?  Here are my best tips when it comes to collecting.  Some of these might seem like common sense but sometimes you might just not think of it.

How did this all get here?!


Buying New

So, if there is a series you really want and it is going to come out soon or is currently coming out, pick it up as soon as possible.  Yes, a lot of series devalue over time but there are many cases of a great series going out of print (OOP) shortly after release and having super jacked up prices.  So, often to avoid headaches I suggest getting titles as they come out.  This might seem expensive but there are way to save money.

One thing not to do is buy from a big box retailer.  Not that I hate Barnes & Noble, but there other ways and places to acquire manga cheaper. One of those is to try your local comic book shop.  Local shops often will give a deal if become a "subscriber." You order so many titles a month (with the plan to get future volumes) and the store gives a discount on all these titles.  Generally in the range of 10% to 20%.  Since manga isn't monthly for the most part, you will have to talk to the store owner about making arrangements.  Most of the time store owners are more then willing to make a deal with you.  Also even if you don't see your favorite manga at the local store there is a good chance they can order it in for you.

Another great way to get new manga cheap is Amazon.  It is almost always discounted to some degree.  I just looked up Sailor Moon Volume 1 and it is 35% off.  Now another great thing about Amazon is pretty much everything over $25 dollars will have free shipping.  I just wait for about three titles I want to come out and order all three at once for the free shipping.  If you have Amazon Prime then you don't even need to worry about that.  If you are a student you can get a free six month trial of Amazon Prime no less.

Another online retailer that is worth trying rightstuf.com.  They often have sales from different publisher that give for around 33% off.  They also have a Got Anime? Purchasing Club Membership which gives an additional 10% off.  Though unless you are ordering over $49 dollars you will have to pay shipping costs.

One last suggestion for buying new is buying new titles at cons.  This can be a crapshoot though.  Some publishers like Vertical sell all their books at a great discount ($10 a piece for books that run $16.95 sometimes) but you have to hurry to the dealers room right away to get what you want.  Other dealers may offer discounts on newer books also.  There are also deep discount sellers with deals like 10 for $40, on new but slightly older titles.  Where the more you buy the cheaper it is.  If you are in the dealers room you can put your books together for an even better deal. If there is something you are really jiving for, it might be worth a look.

Next time I'll talking about getting those series you might of missed out new in "Buying Used."